DVD/Stream of the Week: recent Oscar winners for Best Documentary

AMY

This being the week that the Oscar nominations are released, here’s your chance to see three recent Oscar winning movies. Each was recognized as the year’s best documentary, and each is completely engrossing.

Amy is the heart-felt, engaging and innovative bio-pic of singer Amy Winehouse. DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play

Searching for Sugar Man is about a modest guy who didn’t know that he was a rock star. For real. Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

Undefeated is the story of a high school football coaching trying imbue some hope into kids living in crushing poverty. On DVD and streaming from Netflix; also streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

If I picked the Oscars

THE BIG SICK

The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards come out tomorrow – and Academy of Motion Picture  Arts and Sciences is not asking my opinion.  But if I picked the Oscars:

Best Picture:  My choice for the year’s best movie – Truman – is NOT going to be nominated because it is a little-seen Spanish movie. But there are several deserving choices, including The Big Sick, The Shape of Water and The Post. The Academy almost always chooses a drama for Best Picture, seemingly equating seriousness and gravitas for quality. That means that comedies – and despite the coma, The Big Sick is fundamentally a romantic comedy – get underrated. So I don’t think it will win, but I gauge The Big Sick, an almost perfect film, to be the best American flick of the year.

Best Director:  I’m rooting for Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water, a story that could not be told as well in a novel, on stage or in any other artistic medium. It has to be a movie and one which springs from del Toro’s imagination.

Best Actor:  He’s probably not going to even get nominated, but I would go with Richard Gere in his best career performance in Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. The huge favorite, of course, is Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour; it’s a fine performance, but I think the Oscars over-elevate portrayals of Great Men and Women.

Best Actress:  Can’t go wrong with Meryl Streep in The Post or Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water.   Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird was pretty special, too.

Best Supporting Actor:  Sam Rockwell is going to win this for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but I prefer the performance of Woody Harrelson in the same movie. Harrelson doesn’t have as  showy a role, but this is one of Woody’s very best performances. Another brilliant performance that will NOT be nominated is Steve Coogan’s guy hanging on to sanity with his fingernails in The Dinner, but nobody saw it.  Among the guys who stand a chance of getting nominated, my preference is for Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project.

Best Supporting Actress:  Allison Janney will be nominated for I, Tonya, she will win and she will deserve it.

Best Animated:   Coco, of course.  Pixar is back.

Best Documentary:   The brilliant Ken Burns documentary The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS, isn’t eligible for an Oscar, but it was the year’s best doc.  Of the eligible documentaries, I really liked Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

Best Foreign Language Picture.  I am all in for Truman from Spain, which will not be nominated.  Of those nominated, I most admired In the Fade from Germany.

Original Screenplay:  Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri.

Adapted Screenplay:  Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for I Tonya.

Cinematography:  I’m going to cop out on this category.  There just too many wonderfully visual movies this year tp pick just one as the best.  In any other year, the Academy could easily recognize the cinematography  in The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Call Me by Your Name, Phantom Thread, Baby Driver and Okja – but only one can win the statuette.

Film Editing: Baby Driver or Dunkirk.

Long ago, the Oscars recognized a “Juvenile” acting category.  Brooklynn Prince of The Florida Project would be deserving for her exuberant performance.

Other groups give a “Promising Newcomer”award; mine would go to Greta Gerwig as writer.  Obviously, she’s not new to the movies, but her first screenplay makes me eager to see her next ones.

Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

DVD/Stream of the Week: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES – see the real Oscar winner before the Hollywood version

Ricardo Darin in THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
Ricardo Darin in THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES

The superb The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) won the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture. The Hollywood remake is coming out this weekend, but you should first see the original. The Secret in Their Eyes is a police procedural set in Argentina with two breathtaking plot twists, original characters, a mature romance and one forehead-slapping, “how did they do it?” shot. The story centers on a murder in Argentina’s politically turbulent 1970s, but most of the story takes place twenty years later when a retired cop revisits the murder.

Veteran Argentine actor Ricardo Darin shines once again in a Joe Mantegna-type role. Darin leads an excellent cast, including Guillermo Francella, who brings alive the character of Darin’s drunk assistant. Darin’s detective is a solitary guy who retracts into his lair to bang away at a novel. He has feelings for his boss, a tough judge played by Soledad Villamil. Her career and her personal life can’t wait for the detective to get his own stuff together. All three characters throw themselves into solving the murder and, when stymied, are all scarred by the lack of resolution.

The movie is titled after one element that I hadn’t seen before in a crime movie. And then there are the major plot twists. The final one is a jaw-dropper.

Director Juan Jose Campanella received justifiable praise for the amazing shot of a police search in a filled and frenzied soccer stadium. It ranks as one of the great single shots of extremely long duration, right up there with the opening sequence of Touch of Evil, the kitchen entrance in Goodfellas and the battle scene in Children of Men. This shot alone makes watching the movie worthwhile.

Filmmaker Billy Ray has remade the Argentine film as Secret in Their Eyes, to be released October 23 starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetelu Ejiofor. Ray is no hack – he’s adapted the screenplays for Shattered Glass (which he also directed), Captain Phillips and the first The Hunger Games. The plot has been turned into a story about thee US federal law enforcement officials and the murder of one of their children; unfortunately, the trailer looks more like a plot-driven Law & Order, with none of the characters as singular or as memorable as in the Argentine original. We shall see.

The Secret in Their Eyes is high on my Best Movies of 2010. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video and Flixster.

DVD/Stream of the Week: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES – see the real Oscar winner before the Hollywood version

Ricardo Darin in THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
Ricardo Darin in THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES

The superb The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos) won the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture. The Hollywood remake is coming out this fall, but you should first see the original. The Secret in Their Eyes is a police procedural set in Argentina with two breathtaking plot twists, original characters, a mature romance and one breathtaking, “how did they do it?” shot. The story centers on a murder in Argentina’s politically turbulent 1970s, but most of the story takes place twenty years later when a retired cop revisits the murder.

Veteran Argentine actor Ricardo Darin shines once again in a Joe Mantegna-type role. Darin leads an excellent cast, including Guillermo Francella, who brings alive the character of Darin’s drunk assistant. Darin’s detective is a solitary guy who retracts into his lair to bang away at a novel. He has feelings for his boss, a tough judge played by Soledad Villamil. Her career and her personal life can’t wait for the detective to get his own stuff together. All three characters throw themselves into solving the murder and, when stymied, are all scarred by the lack of resolution.

The movie is titled after one element that I hadn’t seen before in a crime movie.  And then there are the major plot twists.  The final one is a jaw-dropper.

Director Juan Jose Campanella received justifiable praise for the amazing shot of a police search in a filled and frenzied soccer stadium. It ranks as one of the great single shots of extremely long duration, right up there with the opening sequence of Touch of Evil, the kitchen entrance in Goodfellas and the battle scene in Children of Men. This shot alone makes watching the movie worthwhile.

Filmmaker Billy Ray has remade the Argentine film as Secret in Their Eyes, to be released October 23 starring Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetelu Ejiofor. Ray is no hack – he’s adapted the screenplays for Shattered Glass (which he also directed), Captain Phillips and the first The Hunger Games. The plot has been turned into a story about thee US federal law enforcement officials and the murder of one of their children; unfortunately, the trailer looks more like a plot-driven Law & Order, with none of the characters as singular or as memorable as in the Argentine original. We shall see.

The Secret in Their Eyes is high on my Best Movies of 2010. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video and Flixster.